Fiction Writers Screw Ups by Linda Meckler: A Zeta Reads Review

Most online stores require you to buy the book before you review it. This review is based on the title and the sample provided by the author. The purpose of Zeta Reads reviews is to caution readers against paying money for a book that is poor quality. Hopefully the author will be empowered to take a hard look at their work before asking for money from readers.

Linda Meckler caught my attention with her most recent offering: A book about mistakes in fiction. Presumably this includes grammar details. You may have noticed the “mistake” I made in the title of this post. That was intentional and you can see for yourself.

Fiction Writers Screw Ups

The formatting is more appropriate for a school report and then only as a first draft. Considering she’s charging six dollars for this work, it’s very underwhelming. The section on dialogue is only four paragraphs long and like the rest of the work, the formatting is more suited to a high school book report – and then only as a first draft.


Zeta Read Reviews ~ If I Was A Fat Kid Watching Anime by Steven Borella

What… did I just read?

I know it’s a serious effort, because he went to the trouble of buying not one, but two covers. Or maybe, as he is allegedly a computer engineer who went to the University of California, he designed the covers himself. Kudos if he did, because if this is a sample of his writing, than at least he has something to fall back on.

I can’t tell if this essay was meant to be satirical in nature. In the first place it is horribly formatted, with gratuitous use of italics for no apparent reason. Words are capitalized for emphasis, regardless of whether or not they should be emphasized. But then there is the mean spirited nature of this six page offering.

Let me slow down just a moment and point out that I really don’t want to make a reputation for myself as someone who attacks other authors, either online or in person. For all I know, this author is simply portraying a character, the way comedians sometimes have a completely different personality on stage than the way they are in real life. Maybe Steven Borella doesn’t really believe that students who sit at the front row of a class are “brown nosers”. Maybe he actually has respect for students that actually participate in the really expensive college courses that they’re going to have to pay for later in life. On the other hand, he could just as easily have had all of his classes paid for by a wealthy relative, which is why I really hope that none of what I have read in this essay is meant to be taken seriously. Still, I have to review the work as it is presented, which includes my reaction to the overall nature of the piece.

It’s categorized under Essay on Smashwords, so I have to assume since it is not also categorized as such that his piece represents the genuine thoughts and opinions of the author.

There’s confidence. There’s the courage to hold true to your convictions, enough so that you inspire others to follow you. But then you have mean spirited and angry diatribes by someone who clearly feels that he is above everyone. What other conclusion can I draw from a guy who assumes that any person who is not “getting laid” must be masturbating all the time. He also misspells masturbation at one point and assumes that all fat people who pay attention in class can’t be “getting laid”.

Whatever this author’s problem is, or whether I’m reading too much into it, he’s doing himself no favors by the poor effort that’s been put into the format of the final piece. Everyone responds differently to different attitudes and Borella may very well have his readers. After looking at this, however, I will not be one of them.

The Zeta Reads ~ Private Investigator Isabel Raven Monta Rosa by Cordia St. Clair

There’s a fine line between giving an honest review and just outright being a jerk. Sometimes that line is very blurred.

Simon Cowell is often referred to as a jerk. He brings tears to the eyes of hopeful musicians and he does not apologize for this. In the beginning, this caused friction with fellow American Idol judges Randy and Paula. And from the beginning of the UK X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and all of the other shows that Cowell has produced and/or participated in as judge, his straight forward personality and abrupt manner have been the subject of both praise and ridicule. Simon Cowell is not a jerk. He’s a business man. He is not a singer, but he knows a good singer when he hears one and more to the point, he knows who will make the best return on his investments.

Youtube commenters that suggest people they don’t like should commit suicide are jerks.

That is the line.

I fully intend to give the following work a very honest review. It will seem as though I am being a jerk, because to be quite frank, I downloaded it for free and I still overpaid. But all an honest review means is that I am being fully honest about the feelings this work has provoked in me and I am not receiving any compensation for it whatsoever.

Maybe I’m not being fully honest. After I downloaded this story, by Cordia St. Clair, I was on my way home to read and review it, when I found a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. Was this some cosmic payment for the honesty that I am about to unleash? Is there a divine power above me that is spurring me to tell Cordia St. Clair what clearly no one in her inner circle has had the courage to tell her?

I’ll leave it for you to decide. And by you, I mean my faithful readers, not my therapists, lawyers, and the future Internet Archaeologists who uncover my blog and wonder if this is what led to the Great Lunar Catastrophe of 2035.

Cordia does not believe in using covers for her books. Because, to paraphrase her interview responses, she wants the work to speak for itself. She does not wish for the quality of her work to be judged by the cover. This might mean something if the quality of her work was not a very juvenile effort.

The story I downloaded promised “lots of twists”. It also promised that “I will like this”.

The first big twist is that apparently all one has to do to become a “Private-Eye” is to write a letter to your local sheriff’s department and list all of the things you are good at. The second twist is that the sheriff’s office will write you back to say, “Yup, you’ve got the job.” No real experience required, no background check, no interview. I’ve always assumed that becoming a licensed private investigator would require a lot more effort than selecting a job from the newspaper of the latest Sims game, but apparently I was wrong.

Halfway through the 33 page long story, a fantasy subplot gets introduced wherein the main antagonists are named Count Van Helsing and Count Von Headlock. And it’s appropriate enough because this story is a fantasy. And not Game of Thrones fantasy, but the kind of fantasy where you and your best friend chase one another in the school yard shooting one another with a pistol made from your finger and thumb.

What really drew my attention to her work was the fact that she has invited people to contact her, just on the off chance they might want to pay her actual money for her writing. Well, Cordia, if you read this, I hope take this to heart.

If you really want someone to take you seriously as a writer, take all of those stories off of Smashwords. Take them down and rewrite your first book. Whether it’s a short story, or a novella, or what have you, you need to take your time with that first work. Write it, finish it, and then find someone who will give you the mother of all proofreads. That someone cannot be your friend, or your boss, or your family member, or your coworker who is only trying to make you happy because they hope you’ll swap shifts with them on Friday.

Pour your heart and soul into that book. Your father told you to try for attainable goals; well you’re not even trying. When I see work like this, I see someone who might have typed something out on their iPhones during their fifteen minute break, and maybe spent their half-hour break uploading the story to Smashwords. I can’t believe that anyone who truly cares about you and the impression you make on those people that you hope will one day offer you money in exchange for your work, would take a look at your story and say, “This is perfect. Post it up now.”

You might also come back at me with the fact that English may not be your first language. If that’s so, that still is not an excuse. Because if you were writing in your first language, you would still have to produce something that was as polished as it could possibly be before you even think of asking someone to judge the story by the writing.

Also, don’t besmirch the idea of a cover. Because a picture of yourself, which you don’t seem shy about using in lieu of a cover, is not doing you any favors in the marketing department. This is not a personal attack on your looks, or your appearance, but until people consider your writing akin to an unholy addiction (which might offend you as a Christian writer, but even Christian writers have to have a proofreader) then you may want to think twice before they associate your face with a story that they can’t even bring themselves to finish.

In the words of Simon Cowell, I’m giving this story four no’s.